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The Politics of Legitimation and the Revival of Popular Religion in Shaanbei, North-Central China

Adam Yuet Chau
Modern China
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Apr., 2005), pp. 236-278
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20062608
Page Count: 43
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The Politics of Legitimation and the Revival of Popular Religion in Shaanbei, North-Central China
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Abstract

From the early 1980s onward, popular religion has enjoyed a momentous revival in Shaanbei (northern Shaanxi province), as in many other parts of rural China. But despite its immense popularity, popular religion still carries with it an aura of illegality and illegitimacy. Not properly Daoism or Buddhism, which are among the officially recognized religions, popular religion in theory constitutes illegal, superstitious activities. This article addresses questions of the legality and legitimacy of popular religion by analyzing the case of the Black Dragon King Temple in Shaanbei and its temple boss. It examines how not just popular religiosity but the actions of local elites and local state agents have enabled the revival of popular religious activities, focusing particularly on the legitimation politics engaged in by temples and their leaders.

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